Many times our horses seem off, a tick lame, or you 'just can't put your finger on it' but he not himself. It may be hard to believe, but some of what your horse is feeling could actually be caused by YOU, his rider!
When you step into the saddle, you change the way your horse moves. Your balance, the pressure you exert on his body and his mouth through the bit, the way your body reacts when he accelerates or stops – all of these require his body to react and adjust as well.
How can we minimize the affect on our horse?
- Ride with your core. All of our instructors have made this point more than once, I’m sure. But, it’s true and very important. It’s your core that helps you to stay balanced, secure and vertical in the saddle, allowing your horse to move freely underneath you with little interference.
- Strengthen your weak side. It's been documented in studies that our dominant side (right or left handed) will reflect a strong shoulder but weak opposing hip. This imbalance can result in lower back fatigue and strains for you, but it can also affect your horse. Your dominant hand can be exerting close to 40% more pressure on his mouth, making him travel uneven, which can make him sore as well.
- Square up your spine. You have to ride centered on your horse. Listing to one side, riding with a heavy leg on the right or left, or having a crooked neck can all effect his way of travel.
- Improve your cardiovascular health. Riding balanced and centered also requires you to be relaxed, so you need to be able to recover quickly from physical exertion or psychological stress.
- Keep your body fit. Staying balanced in the saddle while maximizing your ability to execute planned movements, as well as to react to any surprises, requires a good muscle to fat ratio and loose, limber limbs. Eat a balanced diet and stretch often.
You and your horse are a team. You’re both athletes. And you both need to be fit, healthy and relaxed to have the best chance of achieving your goals. So before you swing your leg over the saddle, stretch out those muscles, tighten up that core and exhale all your inhibitions! Let's ride!